Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Veal in Lemon Sauce With Asparagus and Capers

I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve made veal, not because of a moral thing (leave your outrage in the comments section, please), but because I’m usually underwhelmed by the flavor and haven’t experienced it to be the tender delicacy it’s cracked up to be.

But when I asked The Rob what he wanted for dinner Sunday night, he said, “Not chicken. Not steak. And not pork. Veal! Veal with gravy! You know, that kind of gravy that goes with veal?”

Gentle reader, I did not. However, I intuited that he meant not gravy but sauce, and came up with a take on Veal Piccata incorporating asparagus and capers, that took under an hour, including fettucine and salad on the side.

Though the recipe itself was easy, getting the veal was not. My regular Met Foods, unsurprisingly, did not have it. At the schwanky market in Fort Greene (let’s just call it Stop & Gentrify), the guy behind the meat counter responded to my request with a hollow, pitying “Nooo,” as if to say, “Sooo sorry we can’t accommodate your sick fetish, Jeffrey-Dahmer-of-baby-cows.”

Based on my location, this led to a horrible sinking realization: I would have to forsake my vow to never return to the Pathmark at the Atlantic Center, the mall I’m pretty sure is modeled on a few of Dante’s circles of hell (only less efficiently designed), with the Pathmark representing the deepest and most horrific level.

After I trekked there, my heart sank, for I had no success finding veal. But to my pleasant surprise, just as I was about to sink to my knees on that filthy floor and curse to the heavens about what kind of God would allow me to go to the Pathmark in vain, an employee whose nametag read “Diddy” led me to the exact super-thin sliced cutlets I wanted. Gentle reader, this was a Gay Pride Day miracle as far as I was concerned--I mean, it was a miracle, and it was Gay Pride Day, so there you go.

However, I still had to wait 15 minutes in the “express” line, where you have to scan your own groceries. This was an utterly new and bewildering experience, which seriously caused me to act like a scene out of Demolition Man or Encino Man or any of those “Man” movies where someone from the past gets unfrozen and is hopelessly confused by technology. So that was another ten minutes, during which I had to ask the Pathmark hall monitor for help like, six times.

But anyhoo! I procured the veal and cooked it, and it was pretty good! And here’s the recipe!

  • Cut thin veal cutlets into pieces approximately two inches square—don’t stress about making them uniform.

  • Stick the veal pieces a few at a time into a shallow dish of flour (I season mine with pinches of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried basil). You want your meat to be coated on all sides with flour; place the floured pieces on a plate or shallow dish. If you want to save time when you get home from work or whatever, you can do this the night before and keep the meat refrigerated; if you do, pour the excess flour over it, and put plastic wrap or tinfoil over the dish.

  • Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan or frying pan on low. Turn the heat up to medium-high and just as it starts to bubble, add as many veal pieces as will cover the pan without touching (shaking off any extra flour). Err on the side of not crowding the pan, leaving space between the pieces of meat. Remove your cooked veal to the plate and add more pieces in batches until done. Add more butter between batches if the pan gets dry. (Don't throw the flour mix away!)

  • Deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine -- that means pouring it in, then pushing the brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. If you don’t have white wine, you could use water, but I highly recommend the wine, as a glass or two pairs quite nicely with cooking.

  • Add another tablespoon or so of butter, depending on how neurotic you are about fat and whatnot. With your fingers, sprinkle about a tablespoon of the flour mix from the veal (I told you not to throw it away! But if you did, plan flour is fine) around the pan, and mix it in with a whisk, fork, or wooden spoon. When you get some paste-like action going, add a couple more healthy splashes of white wine, a couple splashes of chicken stock if you have some, and the juice of half a lemon.

  • Let this simmer and thicken for a minute, and taste to see if you want to squeeze in more lemon juice.

  • Add about a tablespoon of drained capers--which sound like a fancy food, but the supermarket-brand jar you can get for $1.99 is perfectly fine, and you’ll be surprised at how you find yourself incorporating them in dishes in months to come -- then stir, and return your veal to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cover your pan.

  • I was boiling water for fettucine, so I chopped a handful of asparagus and threw it in that water for a few minutes before lifting it out with a strainer; I added it to the dish as I added the veal back. But you could skip this.

  • I served this dish with a Malbec rosé, because veal is beef but looks like white meat and I figured I would split the difference, so that shows you how sophisticated my wine-pairing skills are, but the combo tasted good to me. I probably won’t incorporate veal into my regular-rotation repertoire, what with the whole going-to-hell-and-back thing, but it was a nice change from the pork-beef-chicken routine.


    1. looks delicious.
      "as a glass or two pairs quite nicely with cooking."
      truer words, my friend. truer words.

    2. Fairway always has humanely raised (and therefore, I suspect, better tasting) veal in stock.